Lewis' Blog Tales from the trenches of information technology

6Jun/130

Why should CPAs care about the cloud? Let’s count the ways

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Why should CPAs care about the cloud? Let's count the ways.

Egad... Drinking the Kool-Aid? Who are these people in this blog post, anyway, and what on Earth do they know of data security?

From the article:

  • Kasey Bayne, director of business development, Kashoo
  • Mark Pinard, product manager, Xero
  • Kathleen Long, vice president of customers, Bill.com
  • Dustin Hostetler, principal, Flowtivity LLC
  • Kerri Gibson, director of product management, CCH Small Firm Services
  • Jennifer Warawa, vice president, partner programs and channel sales, Sage

There isn't an IT person in the mix. And look at the points they've made:

Bayne: "...ability to work on your schedule...total control of your life"

Really? How does The Cloud manage to do this where I somehow fail to achieve the same (limited - because I don't know how any data storage solution allows me to have total control of my life) result?

Pinard: "It frees [up] time..."

Huh? How does that happen? Does The Cloud somehow bend the laws of physics, enabling electrons to travel at greater drift velocity than they would from, say, my local NAS device or server?

Long: "It's a safer and more secure way of storing information for CPAs and their clients."

How is it safer? Let's see... I contract with the folks at, say, Amazon (none of these people have cited any specific cloud-services providers; I wonder if they are even aware that The Cloud isn't some mist sent down from Olympus, and that actual companies, employing real people, actually provide such services?) and I store my clients' financial records, Social Security numbers, banking info, and credit card data (scans of statements and such) there. Of course, I don't personally know the 19-year-old wiseguy they just hired last week, who brings a USB thumb drive with him to work, and decides when he's monitoring the backup from the night before to just copy a few files for himself, but hey, my data's safer there than on the 4-drive RAID box sitting on my desk, with encrypted directories in an XFS volume, right?

Hostetler: "...opportunities for the multi-office firm and for firms that have employees and clients in different locations."

And how is it somehow more convenient than my firm's own portal on my own website, where clients may upload and download sensitive documents over an SSL connection to a server hosted on my rack, with their files encrypted and stored in my database? (This is the type of client portal which Rosenthal & Rosenthal will soon be offering to our clients by integrating WP-Client with our new site.)

Gibson: "Time, efficiency, real-time interaction, improved client-customer service [...] the cloud enables that."

Again, huh? The Cloud enables time? The Cloud enables real-time interaction? The Cloud enables improved client-customer service? Time (as mentioned above, concerning the laws of physics; I doubt that she is somehow refuting Ohm's law, here) has nothing to do with it. One either takes the time to review and possibly manipulate a client's data, or one does not. Unless one is still storing such data on inconvenient media (360KB floppy diskettes come to mind), I can't see how storing data or even hosting an application in some cloud provider's silo is going to significantly change the time it takes for me to do my work compared to how it might be if I opened an application locally and accessed the file from my server. Real-time interaction? The last I looked, real-time implied "as it happens." Thus, this has nothing to do with storage. I interact with my clients in real-time when we speak on the phone, exchange text messages, or when we are together, in person. The Cloud has no bearing on any of those situations. Improved client-customer service? I don't know how storing my clients' sensitive data in some remote silo improves customer service, particularly when the cloud provider goes out of business and that data has become inaccessible.

Warawa: "...a tool that enables collaboration so that CPAs can be the trusted advisors they really want to be."

A collaborative tool: Okay, I suppose, due to the ability for multiple people to access the same virtual space from different physical locations, it might qualify under some limited guise as a collaborative tool. Of course, Novell's GroupWise is a collaborative tool, too. And, as client portals (per my mention above) would enable the same thing, I'm not sure what edge The Cloud might have, but the rest of the statement blows this out of the water. I need The Cloud as a collaborative platform so that I may be the trusted advisor I really want to be? How about knowing what I'm doing making me a trusted advisor? How about taking more than reasonable precautions with my clients' data making me a trusted advisor? How about maintaining privacy and security over the sensitive information which has been entrusted to me?

Articles like this really get me firing on all eight cylinders. None of these people have an inkling as to the underlying technology which they are addressing. This is all marketing fluff and nonsense. Don't be fooled, people. The Cloud isn't your friend.

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